“WHAT is it the average human lifespan? 75 years?” Andrew O’Donnell says. “You’re no going to see everything. No point rushing about. And time is strange. When you’re sitting in a bird-hide it goes pretty slow, don’t it?”

O'Donnell and his pal, Mark Taylor are the adventuring pair followed by the BBC's Roaming In The Wild, whose second series starts next week and who have started to garner a cult following. And while "no point rushing about" might seem a strange philosophy for such a show, that in many ways is the principle at its heart. It's about slowing down and taking in the moment – which is also what we're trying to do on the day in which we meet, even though O'Donnell has been up since 5am working on editing the show and according to his pal, Taylor, his "wee eyes" were tired. A cup of tea and a chat then a wander up into the hills just behind their home in Fintry is the plan.

For now, though, we are just talking about bird hides.

"When you’re staring at a lens for 12 hours a day in a hide, you’re left with only your own thoughts," says 35-year-old Taylor. "You start getting a different perspective."

“The mind drifts,” 30-year-old O'Donnell adds. “We were observing goshawks this year in the hide and it was using a remote camera. They were 100 metres away, forest is quite dense. You’re sitting there 18 hours a day, watching something that you don’t ever actually see with your own eyes. Anything good or any observation comes at a price, which is time. But that’s good. It’s good to get bored.”

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Roaming In The Wild, in its second series now, follows the pair as they take a series of journeys across Scotland, none of which actually involve sitting in bird hides for days. But this is no high-octane adventure series – even if it does take the friends walking across Assynt in search of the Northern Lights, paddling down the River Kelvin through Glasgow, sea-kayaking on Loch Shiel, skiing in the Cairngorms and peddle-boating across Loch Ness. The show is not about reaching goals, or bagging peaks. Much of its drama and interest revolves around the distractions and diversions that can take place on a long journey.

That's been their style from the start. Piglets, for instance, were a feature of their first trip filmed for television, a navigation down the Forth in a canoe. They noticed a squealing litter stuck on a riverbank as they passed, and rather than ignore them, got involved in a rescue. It was a highlight of the film.

“We don’t put ourselves in danger,” O’Donnell says. “It’s not that type of film. Bear Grylls can do that. He can fire away. We’re there to smell the flowers.”

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Roaming In The Wild is languorous and low-key, with a touch of slow cinema to its style. You can almost smell the flowers, or the moss, or the river water. “We’re here for a long time, not a good time,” O’Donnell narrates on the first episode, in a twist on the classic line.

It’s also about companionship and friendship as much as nature, which makes it all the more of a pleasure to watch in this pandemic of stretched social ties. There's something about the quirky, low-key dynamic between this duo that is relentlessly watchable. That's on display even as we walk up the hill together, and they wade into bracken for a photo shoot, Taylor frequently hamming, as, eyes wide, he performs the explorer, woolly-hatted O’Donnell, the Stan Laurel of the pair, meeting him with a sad expression or wry grin.

Often, I tell them, the show reminded me of walks I’ve done with my friend Emily – who is herself always so much up for the distraction that we have to add around two hours onto the estimated walk-time of any trip.

HeraldScotland: Mark Taylor, left and Andrew O'Donnell pictured in Stirlingshire. Andrew and Mark have a new BBC Scotland TV series called Roaming In The Wild...  Photograph by Colin Mearns.18 August 2021.For The Herald Magazine, see story by Vicky Allan..

“That’s how it should be,” says Taylor, approvingly. “Too many folks feel the need to get to the top and that’s their mission. Some folk are into that and that’s cool. But we’re a bit more like enjoy the journey. We’ll sit by the waterfall for an extra half hour if the mood takes us… I don’t understand the point of bagging a Munro just to tick it off a list. And if you’re going out for the mission of 'I need to go out and get my hour’s walk in because I haven’t reached my steps yet', are you really enjoying it? Are you really taking it all in?”

He describes how a typical filming trip or expedition might unfold for them. “We’ll say we’re setting off at 8am or 7am but we’ll have a couple of extra coffees and then we’ll set off really a bit later, and then we’ll get to the place we’re going and we’ll have stopped off maybe or a bacon roll and donut and then we’ll be there and we’ll have found something interesting on the way and started filming that for a bit longer. The plans that you make sort of drift off.”

The show is also a reminder that you don’t have to get up onto the highest peak, or tackle the fastest of whitewater to experience the wild or challenge yourself. On their trip down the Kelvin, which takes them from the Campsie Fells into Glasgow and under the roads of Maryhill, a slow and lazy paddle down the water reaches its crescendo in a whitewater slide down a weir. Whitewater fanatics might find it prosaic, but on film, as they plunge through the water, the pair look heroic. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to do very extreme things to feel the glory.

Roaming in the Wild is a series that came, like Calum Maclean’s wild swimming series Dhan Uisge, out of BBC’s The Social. O’Donnell had been making short films for the online department, under the name Beluga Lagoon, and they contacted him and others asking for pitches for programmes. Part of its magic is the way its held together O’Donnell’s relentless, gentle deadpan narration and also the music he has recorded as soundtrack.

He has an ability to twist a quaint observation and make it seem like poetry. “We were soaked through to the nipples,” he says in one of their films, in his sing-song querulous accent. “It was the kind of rain that makes your waterproofs feel a little bit redundant.”

His music, recorded as Beluga Lagoon, is haunting folk, sometimes suffused with O'Donnell's rousing banjo, or guttural voice, and itself deserves a wider audience.

He is, he says, a self-taught musician. “I didn’t go to university. My dad showed me stuff when I was younger. I always tinkered with instruments since I was about five or six. I couldn’t read music or anything but it’s just something I’ve always done and it always just feels part of life. It’s not a job, it’s just something that I do. It’s nice the music, it saves us money as well. It’s nice as well that you know everything is relevant and the subject matter is similar.”

The pair first came across each other when they had the same childminder in Lennoxtown where they grew up, but they bonded as friends when they were both working in a hotel there years later. At the time, Mark, the elder by five years, was 21 and still at university studying aeromechanical engineering.

Taylor recalls, “The three days off I’d be off Tuesday to Thursday, Andrew would be free I’d say what are you up to today and we’d go up the hills. From the very beginning we were camping up back of Lennoxtown. We had a mutual interest – travelling. We ended up going to Madagascar. That’s where we became soulmates. Because Andrew got this idea and it just came out of the blue one day in the kitchen, saying I want to go to Madagascar. Then within a week we’d booked it. That’s when we fell in love.”

O’Donnell now chiefly earns his money as a wildlife cameraman. “I’m a wildlife film-maker, worked for BBC and Japanese television as well. But I would rather just sit out and look at the wildlife and go swimming and stuff. The camera is a method of doing it. I love making films now obviously but at first it was just a way of getting out.”

Taylor still works in pubs and hotels. He enjoys it, though he notes how busy and stressful it can get. “In bars restaurants pubs everything is so stressful and it’s so ridiculous because essentially you’re just having something to eat, your dinner. But you’re getting yourself so worked up and you’re running around.. And then you reflect on it and go there’s no need. It’s like that in general day to day. You could be stressing out about your own personal projects. When you look at the bigger picture is there any need? Is it good for you?”

One of the surprises is that the two friends live together. In their house in Fintry there are children’s toys and instruments arranged along one side of the room. At first I begin to wonder if they have a child together.

HeraldScotland: Andrew O'Donnell, left and Mark Taylor pictured in Stirlingshire. Andrew and Mark have a new BBC Scotland TV series called Roaming In The Wild...  Photograph by Colin Mearns.18 August 2021.For The Herald Magazine, see story by Vicky Allan..

But, no, it turns out that Mark is living with O’Donnell’s family, partner Lyndsay, baby daughter Ivy and son, Jamie. It turns out that O’Donnell had “a lockdown baby”. “Uncle Mark” as O’Donnell puts it, came to look after their older child while they went into hospital for the birth of their second, Ivy, and since they had now formed a bubble, never left.

“The grandparents were all shielding,” O’Donnell recalls. “Eventually they would be able to come and look in the window and like see Ivy my daughter. Mark’s holding her and my mum’s absolutely raging, 'That Mark, holding my granddaughter, I’ve no even held her yet.' Mark is not his uncle but it’s one of those spiritual sort of things.

“It was good also for doing the work together,” Taylor recalls. “It was quite nice. I cooked you dinner. He was just serenading the baby and I was grafting and doing the gardening.”

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Luckily it seems O’Donnell’s partner, Lyndsay is, by their accounts relaxed about their regular trips – and doesn't have much urge to join them in a tent. “Lyndsay is pretty glamorous,” O’Donnell says, “likes nights in the town and stuff like that. She hasn’t been camping yet. Likes a gastropub does Lindsay.”

What’s apparent from spending a little time with them is that they are pretty much as they appear in the series. “We’re pals,” Taylor says. “We do spend a lot of time together – we’ve been working together for quite a few years and we’re looking to do more and more, pretty much most days we’ll see each other, we’ll be working together. We do get on socially, professional, we hang out with the same people. A lot together. We just get on.”

“We’re both quite chilled out,” O’Donnell says. “We can sit in silence for four hours and it’s not awkward.”

But they are also like “wee boys”, they say, inclined towards doing a daft practical joke when they’re out and about in the supermarket. Recently, when O’Donnell hid from Taylor under one of the shelves in B&Q, he was caught out by the fact that a couple came looking along the aisle just at that point, and he was trapped in that hiding place.

Nevertheless, there’s an element of seriousness to their series. They clearly care about the natural world they roam through, even if they’re not particularly preachy. They are advocates of rewilding. They bemoan the impact of litterers but seem keen to share the wilds with others. They try gently in the series to role model behaviours like clearing up litter and leaving a campsite as found. Don’t they get stressed about what’s happening to the natural world they care so much about? About climate-change and biodiversity loss?

“You effect the things you can effect,” says O’Donnell. “I’ve been involved in working for people who make environmental films and you try and do what you can in that sense. Scotland needs more biodiversity, it goes without saying.”

“You always want to do more,” Taylor adds, “and we’re not ignorant to that. But I think there are things you can fix, and you can stress about them, and there are things you can’t and there’s no point in stressing over. You effect those around you, you effect the way you live, from there you hope that leads on to people within your community. I don’t get overly stressed about things like climate or covid or things like that because all you can do is try and do your wee bit.”

Watching the series, I felt soothed and transported. The pair have had feedback from people who have seen their first series and said they felt even watching it had been good for their mental health. One of O’Donnell’s friends got in touch with him, saying had not been keeping that well and telling him how much had enjoyed the film. “He said it was kind of like going out there with my own pals and I can’t go out right now, it will be a while before I can.”

Is that part of the motivation of the show, to encourage people to do something that might enhance their mental wellbeing?

“I don’t think that’s consciously what it’s about,” Taylor says. “You just know what works for yourself and knowing myself that when I’m out and about away for a wee while it’s that meditative way where you’ve not got the hassle of the day to day and I am no expert in it, I just know it recharges your battery, give you a new perspective. You read about forest bathing and things like that and how it’s good for the soul. But everyone has their own issues and their own problems and what’s good for someone might not be good for another. We don’t want to say this is what you should be doing. You’re feeling a bit blue, go out for a walk. That’s a bit simplistic. I just know if I haven’t been out for a while or stuck inside for whatever reason I feel a bit clogged up. I can’t put my finger on it. ”

And in any case, O’Donnell notes, the outdoors is also not always therapeutic. “I spend loads of time on my own. I find the outdoors can be a pretty horrible place when you’re stuck with your own thoughts, if things aren’t going well and you’ve not seen anyone for about a month. That’s not a good place to be.”

“That’s when you need to come out with Mark,” his pal says. “We spur each other on. Because it can be a slog. Say if Andrew’s not got the motivation, he’s a bit down, you try and pick him up, and vice versa. Because we’re pally, we can pick up on each other’s moods and vibes. "

“We know when no to annoy each other,” O’Donnell adds.

“Well, do we?” Taylor replies, and it's not clear whether that's a joke, or grievance.

Roaming In The Wild is on BBC Scotland from Thursday September 23